Cushendall native shortlisted for National Health Literacy Award

CUSHENDALL native, Clodagh McAlister, who works in St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, has been given national recognition for her outstanding efforts to communicate with patients in a crystal clear way.

Clodagh and her team from St. Vincent’s University Hospital have been shortlisted for their initiative “Introducing the New National Descriptors for modified food & fluids” in the sixth annual Crystal Clear MSD Health Literacy Awards in the Category, Best Project in a Hospital. As a result of being shortlisted, Clodagh and her team will be invited to attend the Crystal Clear MSD Health Literacy Awards Ceremony in Dublin on Monday, 13th May 2013.

The Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists and the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute developed a document called ‘Irish Consistency Descriptors for Modified Fluids and Food’. The document aimed to facilitate clear communication and reduce ambiguity between healthcare professionals and patients, ensuring patient safety. It was hoped this new terminology would improve patient and carer understanding of dysphagia (a swallowing problem) and can happen to people with a number of conditions such as; stroke, multiple sclerosis, or following a head injury.

The Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) and Dieticians came together to coordinate the descriptions of food and fluids to help educate nursing staff and health care assistants, focusing on the new terminology and dysphagia recommendations. New signage and a patient/carer booklet were also developed. The project resulted in staff having a better understanding of the terminology as well as having reference points in the form of new signage available hospital wide. Benefits of the project included; increase compliance, better patient care and improved patient understanding.Almost 130 entries were received this year across the healthcare sector including; GPs, nurses, practice managers, physiotherapists, and hospital catering managers. The entry level to the Crystal Clear Awards has remained very high over the last 6 years and highlights the strong level of interest in health literacy in the healthcare environment in Ireland. Health literacy involves a person being able to understand basic health information whether they receive it in writing, in person or over the phone. It also involves a person having the knowledge to understand their options and make informed decisions about their own health.

Ms Ciara O’Rourke, Director, Access, Policy & Communications, MSD, and judge of the awards commented, “This is the sixth year of the Crystal Clear awards and the shortlisted entries highlight the remarkable work being done all across the healthcare sector to better inform people about their health. The recent EU Health Literacy survey proves that the more people understand their health, the better their health will be.¹ All the judges are pleased to see the continued commitment in the healthcare sector to health literacy and would like to extend our congratulations to all those shortlisted.”

Also speaking at the announcement of the shortlist was Inez Bailey, Director of the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), who said, “With almost 130 entries into the Crystal Clear Awards again this year, it is clear that a lot is being done on the topic of health literacy. It shows that healthcare professionals are making great efforts to communicate in a clear, easy-to-understand way, using innovative approaches and rephrasing any specialised terms in plain English. We would like to commend all those who have taken the time to enter the awards. We would also like to offer our congratulations to all those shortlisted projects and have no doubt that they will inspire others working in this area.”

The Awards are a partnership between MSD and NALA with representation on the judging panel from the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), Irish Practice Nurse Association (IPNA), UCD, a General Practice and NALA. The media partner to the awards is The Irish Medical Times.

For further information on the Crystal Clear MSD Health Literacy Awards, log onto